InTouch Health Looks to Hire Michigan Engineers to Develop RoboDocs (of Sorts)

5/6/10

A man is brought into a hospital emergency room in Port Huron, MI, after collapsing while riding his bike. The patient had a stroke, so the first problem facing the ER docs is that there is not a moment to lose, as there is a narrow window of time available to treat a stroke before irreparable harm can come to the patient. The second problem is that the nearest stroke specialist is at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, MI, more than 50 miles away.

Turns out, it’s not a problem. Within minutes, here comes a 5-foot-tall robot, with a flat video screen as its “head.” Yes, a robot.

robot_RP7iLowResWell, not a robot that can physically treat a patient, but one that is primarily a carrier for the video screen and camera. On screen is a neurologist who specializes in strokes, controlling the robot from St. Joseph Mercy, talking to the patient and medical personnel, doing a thorough visual exam of the stroke victim’s symptoms and prescribing appropriate medication.

Everything, of course, turns out just fine for the patient, since what is being described comes from a promotional video on the Website for InTouch Health, a Santa Barbara, CA-based company that not only has a number of customers at major medical centers in Michigan, but also has some bigger plans for conducting research and development in the state.

Helping them along toward that goal is Beringea, a Farmington Hills, MI, venture capital firm that announced on April 26 that it had invested $6 million in InTouch Health, which plans to use the Series D financing round to open an R&D center in Michigan and hire a team of advanced robotics engineers. The investment was made through Beringea’s InvestMichigan! Growth Capital Fund. Also contributing to the $10 million total round were return investors  Galen Partners, InvestCare Partners, and Twenty One East Victoria Investments, among others.

In an e-mail to Xconomy, Charles Rothstein, senior managing director of Beringea, praises InTouch Health as “the all star in the rapidly expanding field of telemedicine.” Rothstein says InTouch CEO Yulun Wang is respected as an industry thought leader.

“The company’s decision to further expand its Michigan footprint proves once again that world class engineering and R&D talent is an abundant resource in our state and one that will help propel our economy forward,” Rothstein says.

Tim Wright, vice president of marketing at InTouch Health, says there is a small field support staff in Michigan already serving existing customers in the state. “Through those people, we’ve gotten to know there’s really a large body of highly skilled engineers,” Wright says. “So, we think it’s going to be a great match for us.”

Right now, there’s no office in Michigan, but there are four technicians and sales representatives to service existing clients here. Wright says the company will look to hire “a handful” of … Next Page »

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